Bobby ParnellThat title above is kind of a strange question. The immediate answer is, “Of course it is.” When any pitcher you’ve invested a good chunk of time watching – as a field manager, an executive or a fan – is recovering from Tommy John surgery, you can’t help but worry. Despite the evidence from players like Matt Harvey, Adam Wainwright and, heck, Tommy John himself, there are no guarantees that coming through with flying colors on the operating table will translate to success on the mound. As fans, we can get lulled into a sense that post-surgery, the pitcher will come back better than ever. Sometimes, it doesn’t quite work out.

Bobby Parnell arrived on the scene as wielder of pure flame. The radar guns routinely lit up north of 97 MPH, even touching on 101 or 102 on occasion. The problem was that there was precious little movement on the Parnell blazer. As the old adage goes, it doesn’t matter how fast you throw it: if it stays straight, major league hitters will catch up to it. From 2008 to 2010, that’s exactly what happened, especially during a misbegotten experiment with Parnell as a starter for eight games in late-2009. It looked for all the world like he would never “find it,” the missing ingredient that would turn his velocity lethal. Until an old face returned, that is.

In spring training 2011, the Mets signed their former closer Jason Isringhausen to bolster a shaky bullpen, led by volatile current closer Francisco Rodriguez. Isringhausen was a practitioner of the knuckle-curve, and had carved out a fine career with its help. During long hours in Florida and in major league bullpens across the land, Parnell soaked up the veteran’s wisdom and began fooling hitters in a middle-innings/setup role. When Rodriguez was traded to Milwaukee in July and Isringhausen started showing his age, Parnell found himself the team’s closer. Though supplanted by the egregious Frank Francisco in 2012, over the next two-plus seasons, he did not disappoint. Parnell saved 35 games between August 2011 and September 2013. The job was finally his and Mets folks were pleased with that.

On Opening Day 2014, though, Parnell pitched a shaky ninth inning, surrendering the tying run in a brutal extra-inning loss. It was his only appearance of the year, as it was shortly determined that surgery would be necessary. He has just now begun a very rocky road to recovery. Finally back out on the mound in rehab assignments, he’s been being roughed up by minor league hitters in St. Lucie and Binghamton. In 11 high-A/AA innings, he has surrendered 21 hits and 13 walks, resulting in a rehab WHIP of 3.091. He has only struck out eight youngsters, so his K/BB ratio is an appalling 0.62. Sprinkle those ghastly numbers with the fact that he’s had his rehab shut down more than once since spring training and his future becomes troubling.

It was thought that Bobby Parnell would come back sometime in the early-season and bolster the ‘pen. Not that he would step right back into the closer’s role right away – Jeurys Familia’s electrifying start to the year has rendered that question almost moot – but he would be a valuable, live arm late in games, especially with Vic Black and Jerry Blevins also remaining on the shelf.

It looks like that plan needs a re-think.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

7 comments on “Is It Time To Worry About Bobby Parnell?

  • Wilponzi

    What’s the big deal, if Parnell can’t come back. The Bullpen’s been pretty, pretty good, even with all these players on the DL. Blevins, Black and Mejia will be back, the Mets will be loaded with relievers.

    Hitting is the problem.

  • Pete

    Just replace Parnell with Mejia and the Met’s will be fine. Mejia should be able to provide the pen with additional depth. Sorry but only concerned for Parnell and “his” future as a human aspect for your story. That’s not on the Met’s or their questionable medical staff.

  • James Preller

    Parnell is a reminder that not everybody comes all the way back from TJ in the first year. It’s going to take him some time, if he comes all the way back at all.

    The question is that Sandy probably needed to let him walk rather than pay the guy $3.75 this season — because he’s gone next year. Would it have been wiser to say goodbye and reinvest in a different player, rather than count on a guy to return and be effective from TJ?

    As of now, that answer seems to be yes.

    I’ve always really liked Parnell and thought he was blossoming at the time of the injury. I wish him the best. I also thought that he could have been a nice trade chip before the injury.

    Maybe he’ll be better in a couple of months.

  • Pete

    James the problem you state so well is the “maybe” he’ll be back in a couple of months. No point in expecting anything from Parnell. And it would appear Alderson is planning the pen with this in mind.

  • James Newman

    No sense in rushing him back, but I think his presence (if he can return to old form) would definitely be welcomed. I don’t think Collins has a lot of trust in his relievers, as we could see last night. If we had another proven reliever, like Parnell, Familia would have pitched in the ninth, rather than get five outs. Hopefully we see Parnell return at some point in the season, but there is no need to risk a setback in his rehab process.

  • Pete

    Nor would his agent allow it James. RIsk his career? Just to see if he might return and help the Met’s? If he’s cleared by the doctors absolutely yes come back. But he is having set backs in his rehabbing. I would imagine he is going to protect his future as well and not rush his progress.

  • Patrick Albanesius

    At this point, if he can come in later in the season and provide pen assistance rather than us having to trade anyone away during a hopeful playoff run, all the better. Otherwise, he should not be counted on as a pivotal piece to the season. Unfortunate to say, but it’s better for him if he only comes back when he’s 100% ready.

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